Lockdown drives data traffic
SOUTH Africa was considering giving telecoms companies increased spectrum, or airwave capacity, as millions of people switch to home working, testing networks and driving up data traffic, the communications minister said yesterday.
The telecoms industry, which is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), has experienced a spike in network data traffic in recent days after thousands of schools and universities were forced to shut down.
Telkom told Reuters that it was seeing increases of 15% to 30% in data consumption across mobile and fixed connectivity, while MTN Group said it was too early to quantify the surge in data traffic.
MTN, Telkom and Vodacom are already providing free access to health sites and e-school platforms to support home learning and teaching, while MTN has waived fees on mobile money transactions in certain markets.
While South African telecoms operators say their networks have been able to cope so far, there are fears of congestion as more people work from home.
“One envisages a situation where there will be too much traffic on the network,” Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told journalists, adding that Icasa was considering providing temporary additional spectrum.
The minister said that telecoms companies would be required to return the spectrum once the situation normalised.
“Icasa is currently engaging with sector licensees on possible ways of providing radio frequency spectrum relief for the duration of the declared State of Disaster,” Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka confirmed in an email.
“This is mainly to ease congestion, ensure good quality of broadband services and to enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers (particularly in relation to education, emergency and other social services).”
Vodacom told Reuters that it would be engaging Icasa to “gain access to spectrum on a temporary basis”.
“Vodacom has also taken a decision to significantly ramp up investment spend in the short term to help manage network congestion,” group spokesperson Byron Kennedy said.